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No. 4 Gators try to handle success after big win

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No. 4 Gators try to handle success after big win

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) The first thing Florida coach Will Muschamp showed his players this week was a list of mistakes.

He put all the errors from Saturday's 14-6 win over LSU on an overhead projector and went over them one by one.

His message was loud and clear: There would be no more celebrating around the football facility, which was a raucous scene last Saturday. Long gone was all the screaming, shouting and dancing. Even Muschamp's stage dive in the middle of the locker room was a distant memory now.

It was back to business for the fourth-ranked Gators (5-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference).

Muschamp wanted his team to realize the importance of handling success. After all, it's been nearly three years since Florida has been so highly ranked or won five consecutive games. How will the Gators respond?

``We'll see Saturday night,'' Muschamp said.

Florida goes on the road to Vanderbilt on Saturday, trying to avoid a letdown after the most significant win in Muschamp's two seasons in Gainesville.

``It's a new week. We've gotta forget about last week,'' linebacker Jon Bostic said. ``There were still a lot of areas that we could improve on, so this week we're focusing on that.''

The Gators have few players remaining from those Tim Tebow-led teams that won 22 consecutive games, including the 2008 national championship. Instead, the roster is filled with guys who experienced nearly as many losses (11) as wins (15) over the last two seasons - Urban Meyer's final season and Muschamp's first.

All those setbacks seemingly brought this team together, especially during offseason workouts.

``Family was the motto, just grinding for each other,'' sixth-year senior guard James Wilson said. ``I just think we're all pretty focused on one goal. It's to get to Atlanta first. ... Just got to keep it going. Nothing's done yet.''

Even though the Gators are trying to stay focused on the Commodores (2-3, 1-2), they are well aware that next week's game against No. 3 South Carolina likely will determine whether they reach the SEC title game.

And that's challenge: forget the past, don't think about the future and focus on the task at hand.

``We set expectations and we talk about how to handle them, what are standards are,'' offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. ``It shouldn't change. We go back out and start over just like it's a new week. It doesn't matter who we're playing. Cover up the scoreboard, put new-colored jerseys on and you go get ready for the next game.

``It's how you handle success: You start all over. Preparation is key to any game because we can go out and get beat as easily if we don't prepare properly.''

And that's why Muschamp focused on the miscues early in the week, pointing out the three sacks, the two turnovers, the six penalties, the missed tackles, the blown assignments and several missed opportunities.

Although the Gators rank third in the league in rushing offense and third in scoring defense, their passing game ranks last and their grind-it-out, close-to-the-vest style seemingly makes them vulnerable to mistakes and prone to an upset.

``We're still hungry,'' cornerback Jaylen Watkins said. ``It's easy for us to come off that game and be still pumped about it and talking about it, but nobody talked about the game. That was the weekend and now we're focusing on Vanderbilt. ... We can't change what we do preparation-wise to keep the thing going.''

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley, 
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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Jamaal Charles headlines a group of Redskins running back tryouts

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USA Today Sports

Jamaal Charles headlines a group of Redskins running back tryouts

Jamaal Charles used to be among the best running backs in the NFL, and maybe the Redskins hope to turn back the clock. 

Washington is dealing with a number of injuries at the running back spot, and to get through two more preseason games, the team is bringing in a number of veteran runners for tryouts. Charles is the biggest name coming in for a test drive with the Redskins, as ESPN reported. Former Giants RB Orleans Darkwa is also getting a tryout, per multiple reports. 

How did Washington get to the point where the team needs to add more backfield options in mid-August?

First, Derrius Guice injured his knee in the preseason opener. He will miss the season. 

In the second preseason game, Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall and rookie Martez Carter got hurt. Perine should be back in a week or as he suffered only a sprained ankle. Marshall could miss a month, making a roster spot flimsy, and Carter was waived due to his injury. 

That means the Burgundy and Gold only have Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson active for practice, and remember, Thompson is working back from a broken leg last November. He hasn't played yet in the preseason, and might not go at all until Week 1 in Arizona.

Add all of that together and the team was forced to bring in veteran options, if for nothing else than to get through the remaining two preseason games.

Back to Charles.

From 2009 to 2014, Charles put up absurd numbers. He approached 2,000 total yards from scrimmage in both 2013 and 2010, and put up more than 1,700 total yards in 2012. It's worth adding that Charles found great success with Alex Smith when both were playing in Kansas City. Just saying. He was undeniably great, and probably won thousands of people thousands of dollars as a fantasy football MVP.

That time appears to be over though.

In the last three seasons, injuries have robbed Charles of his burst and elusiveness. Last year, he couldn't break through in the Denver backfield despite being healthy for 14 games. He rushed for just under 300 yards. 

Redskins fans will have unfortunate memories of Darkwa.

In an ugly Week 17 loss last season in New York, he busted a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and finished the game with 154 yards. Last season was the best of his career for Darkwa, he ran for more than 750 yards and averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry. He's only 26 years old and, coincidentally, played college football at Tulane with Rob Kelley

By adding Guice in the second round of the NFL Draft this spring, the Redskins thought they addressed their need for a talent boost at the RB position. With Guice out for the year, the position looks about the same as it did in 2017. 

Adding Charles and Darkwa seem unlikely to change that, at least significantly. And that's if either of the veteran runners even make the 90-man roster. 

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